Property ownership is a huge component of the American dream. Almost everyone yearns to own their own home and put down roots, and for many, that dream extends into business ownership and creating something that will last throughout the years. But how much ownership do you really have if the government can seize your property at any time? The topic of eminent domain and condemnation can bring up complex questions and issues.
If the government has indicated an interest in seizing your property or negotiating for its sale, do not wait any longer to talk to an attorney. There is a lot at stake here and you must be proactive. Call Hodges Trial Lawyers at 256-826-4129 to set up a consultation now.
What is Eminent Domain and How Does Condemnation Fit Into It?
Eminent domain is the government’s right to seize private property if it plans on using said property for public use. Under eminent domain, the government must also provide landowners fair compensation for their seized land—but, as you may imagine, what is considered fair is often a topic of heated debate.
“The government” is a vague term, but both the state of Alabama and the federal government are legally permitted to seize property. Additionally, both of these entities can grant the power of eminent domain to other entities. This significantly extends the reach of eminent domain.
Condemnation is how the government exercises its right of eminent domain. A condemning entity must go through a specific process to condemn property and seize it for public use.
How the Government Exercises Its Eminent Domain Powers
The government generally goes through negotiations before choosing to exercise the right of eminent domain. They may attempt to negotiate with the property owner by offering them what they consider to be a fair amount for the land and the structures it contains. The property owner can also negotiate and either attempt to get more for their property or try to avoid selling it at all.
Should negotiations be unsuccessful, the entity may move forward with surveying the land, making a settlement offer, and telling the property owner about their intent to take the property under eminent domain. Should they still be unsuccessful in securing an agreement with the property owner, they can take legal action to take the property by force.
This can be confusing to homeowners. Negotiations may appear to be unfair if one party has the option to exercise their will and take what they want at any time, which is the case when eminent domain is on the table. They may feel like they can negotiate but have little leverage since the government can just move forward with condemnation as they choose.
Property Owners Have Limited Rights
Unfortunately, this is a very tricky legal spot to be in. Having your property condemned and seized is stressful, expensive, and time-consuming. There are legal options to explore, such as determining whether or not the condemning entity actually has the right to condemn the land in question. Property owners may also be able to demand compensation that is more in line with actual property values, rather than the decreased amount often offered by the government.
In Alabama, property owners have more limited rights than property owners in some other states. Alabama law does not allow a property owner going through this process to recover attorney’s fees or litigation expenses from the government or the condemning entity. Even if they are successful in keeping their land or getting a fair price for it, they may still be left with significant legal expenses.
When You Need an Attorney
The moment you find out that a government entity wants to buy your land or take it via condemnation, you must contact an attorney. This is a process that heavily favors the government, and without an attorney representing you, you risk being taken advantage of.
Protect Your Property and Your Rights with Hodges Trial Lawyers
It’s time to talk to the team at Hodges Trial Lawyers about your rights as a landowner. Contact us online or call us at 256-826-4129 to set up a consultation right now.